Tallinn, Estonia: Studying at „Tallinna Ülikool“ (by Pia & Svenja)

„Järgmine peatus: Tallinna Ülikool“ (Estonian for „Next stop: Tallinn University“) is something we students hear pretty much everyday. If we are not at home doing some assignments, chances are high you’ll find us at the Tallinna Ülikool: either in the working area or editing computers in the Nova building, where BFM is located or on the steps in the entrance hall of the Astra building.

The lounge next to the cinema at BFM (Baltic Film and Media School)

Let us tell you a bit about our schedule. Before even coming to Estonia, we were sent courses from BFM that had been selected by Macromedia. In total, our schedule consists of 5 mandatory modules:

  • Introduction to TV
  • 1 of 3 electives: Film Language, Film Criticism or Crossmedia
  • Introduction to Estonian Culture
  • Creative Economy and Creative Entrepreneurship
  • Project Directing Fiction

Furthermore, there was the possibility to choose additional courses like Editing at the start of the semester. However, the credit points gained through these classes won’t be counted by Macromedia because they exceed the needed 30 ECTS points. Nevertheless, these classes might be really helpful.

In the Editing course for example, students work on projects like TV features, scenes from short films and even music videos and in addition to that, they also are engaged in film analysis. The teacher gives an introduction to Final Cut and the colorgrading programm Davinci Resolve.

But let’s come back to our mandatory classes. Most of the time they consist of both theoretical as well as practical parts. Project Directing Fiction is a bit different, you will learn about that in a bit.

Introduction to TV

For Introduction to TV we have to prepare for two midterms four assignments, as well as for one studio introduction practice and a graded follow-up studio exercise. The final project will be either a fictional or non-fictional video story. In order to be allowed to even continue this course, every one has to pass the first midterm, so the pressure was quite high. Normally, the workload would be managable but together with our ongoing films for Project Directing Fiction, it is a lot to handle.

Film Language

Svenja and I can only talk about the mandatory elective Film Language in which we learn to translate stories on to the screen. Here everything works with the principle „Turning psychology into behaviour“. Repeat that a thousand times and you are already a step closer to be a better screenwriter/director. We watch movie clips and discuss them in class. In the beginning we had to choose between two final projects we wanted to do.

  • Option 1: Creating a film character based on one of the Chinese astrology signs. We had to shoot a short film with our phones and were graded for how many people guessed the sign correctly and how well the story was told.
  • Option 2: Copying a short scene from a movie and replicating everything as simultaniously as possible. This task is a bit more technical because it tries to duplicate the beats and rhythm of the original.

Estonian Culture

The Estonian Culture class is meant to give us a deeper insight into the country we are temporarily living in. Since the first Estonian Culture class we have been assigned to was interfering with other modules, Tallinn University specifically constructed a class just for us Macromedia students. We have had language lessons to learn a few basics like Tere (Hello), Aitäh (Thank you) or Minu nimi on… (My name is…). Our teacher made the learning environment as comfortable as possible. And that was crucial because, oh boy, Estonian is difficult. Let us just say that, it has FOURTEEN grammatical cases! Every Thursday we either have a lecture about a special topic like the Baltic-German culture, or go on trips like to the Film Museum, or we are watching Estonian films. We even met Martti Helde, an Estonian director. I highly recommend his film „In the Crosswind“!

Creative Economy and Creative Entrepreneurship

This class has only just started end of October, so we can’t tell you much about that yet. In these lectures we are learning about business models, influence of culture on creative markets and value chains on the market.

Project Directing Fiction

This project is the reason why I personally decided to go to Tallinn. Within this module we get the chance to realize different short film projects. In the beginning of the semester we had to pitch our ideas and choose four suitable projects. I guess I can speak for everyone when I say that our movie projects are top priority. We formed groups in which every director has one fixed assistant director, one director of photography and one producer. Everyone is basically involved in one main project and is helping out with others as best as they can. These films are the reason why everyone is sleepdeprived and goes to bed every night at 1 am at the earliest ;) But it will be worth the effort. Our days consist of production meetings, castings, location scouting, script finalising and storyboard drawing. It’s not always easy to find your way around in a foreign country, especially when you have to produce a film on your own. We were mainly funding our films through Kickstarter campaigns, which involves a lot of work as well. Our tip: Talk to people!!! It makes everything easier (e.g. finding extras) and asking won’t hurt.

We hope that this quick overview has given you an insight into what will await you in Tallinn :) Maybe it will even help you with your decision where to spend your semester abroad. You will have to do a lot of work here, but you will learn a lot of new things as a result.

Written by Pia & Svenja